SpaceX is taking applications for its much-anticipated rideshare program. Don’t get your hopes up — it’s for rockets, not humans. Called the Smallsat Rideshare Program, it’s aimed at small satellite customers.
Applications for the program opened up on February 5, and rideshare missions start at $1 million to use a Falcon 9 rocket to get your satellite into orbit. In the grand scheme of things, a $1 million price point is cheap for this sort of thing.
Interested applicants can choose between their desired orbit — sun-synchronous, low-Earth or, polar — and their desired date (flights begin this June). Inputting your estimated payload will give you an estimated cost, but pricing starts at $1 million for up to 400 pounds at a sun-synchronous orbit. After that, it’s an additional $5,000 for approximately every 2 pounds (1 kg).
SpaceX can also offer on-site fueling, insurance, and port adapters for additional costs. A $5,000 credit card deposit is required before you “check out.”
There’s an extensive user guide on what requirements you have to meet to use the program, but it’s the first program of its kind that allows essentially anyone with the right technology (and enough money) to launch something into space.
The program also means that smaller customers would no longer have to “piggyback” on a larger launch, enabling them to plan their mission with much greater assurance.
In August, SpaceX told Digital Trends that the company is aiming to ramp up commercial its efforts.
“We’re committed to serving the commercial market as it grows and changes, and we believe we can address the needs of small satellite operators by offering reliable, cost-effective access to orbit through regularly scheduled, dedicated rideshare missions,” a SpaceX spokesperson said.
The online application tool is just as easy as ordering a custom car model on Tesla’s website, SpaceX’s sister company.
Aside from helping others get their satellites into space, SpaceX also launches its own Starlink satellites into low-Earth orbits. So far, it’s launched four batches (about 240 satellites) into space since May of last year.
In the company’s own words, the Starlink satellite project aims to “deploy the world’s most advanced broadband internet system” to provide “fast, reliable internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable.”